Over the last 10 years, there has been major movement in the field of conflict management. Science has shown us that there are key differences between disputes and conflicts, and that each of these phenomenon must be treated differently. As a result the field has fragmented, but in a good way. We have those that are dealing with resolving the disputes of society through dispute resolving methodologies (arbitration, mock juries), all the while we have another sector of the field dealing with managing conflicts through conflict managing techniques (Truth and reconciliation commissions and facilitation). The fifth wave of conflict resolution is the defining wave of the field, with specialization developing among practitioners we are seeing the field mature.
One of the major changes that we are seeing in the fifth wave of conflict management is the adoption of online conflict management (OCM). OCM has come a long way from its initial inception of sending letters back and forth between lawyers offices. This then evolved to the use of the fax machine, then the phone, then primitive programs with limited security like AOL instant messenger and Skype, to what we have now with corporations providing a dynamic secure platform for multiple dispute and conflict resolution methodologies. Traveling around the world speaking on this subject, I have noticed that most conflict management professionals are willing to take the leap to be on the cutting edge of OCM, likely because most conflict management professionals are already forward thinking. The one thing that is holding them back is that they are unwilling to invest in the proper technology to become one of the major practitioners in the field of OCM.
There is a biblical story that reminds me a lot of the field of OCM. In this story a man comes up to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to be a good person and enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus tells him that he needs to follow the commandments, and the man says “Lord, I have done that.” Jesus then tells the man to love his parents, and the young man responds, “Lord, I have done that.” Jesus tells him love his neighbor as himself, and again the man replies “Lord, I have done this and more.” Finally, Jesus tells him “then sell your possessions, give the money to the poor…and you will have treasure in heaven.” At this, the young wealthy man lowered his head in shame, for parting with his wealth was not part of his “plan” to help others. This is a sad story, but it really relates to how to be successful in the field of conflict management.
Whether you are religious or not, this story relates to the practice of OCM. At its heart, OCM and the rest of the conflict management and dispute resolution families are about helping people. If you only get into the field to make money, you are likely to be sorely disappointed. The field calls us to be good people who are willing to help others, sometimes at the expense of our own wealth. We are called to follow the rules, like the wealthy man most people follow the rules. We are called to listen to those who came before us, and like the wealthy man many OCM professionals train to be the best every year. We are called to love our neighbors and help them with their problems, and many of us excel at this. However, when we are called to contribute our own wealth to make sure that we can move forward, when we are called to give up our hard earned money to keep our business going- this is where we balk. OCM, like the kingdom of heaven, is a all or nothing bid. You have to invest yourself and your wealth into the process of helping others, which, in time, will provide a reward on the other end.
One of the areas where OCM professionals fail to invest their wealth is in the area of their computer equipment. We work in a technological field, it makes sense that it would require good technology. Time and time again, I work with people who are using 10 year old computers that are unable to keep up with even the most basic “common software” (read Skype and messengers). They have taken all the time to train as professionals, when they are called to invest just that little bit more, the balk and walk away. This prevents many businesses in the OCM field from being successful, because people do not have the proper equipment to get the job done.
OCM professionals need at least a performance computer to manage all the software packages that are required of our field. If you can afford it, you should probably invest in a higher end gaming computer. Performance computers and gaming computers have strong central processing units (CPUs) and strong graphics processors (GPUs), these are the parts of the computer that do the heavy lifting and technological processes. Whether you have a laptop or a desktop (desktops tend to be a little less expensive), making sure that you have the equipment that can handle the virtual environment of OCM. We know that OCM is in its infancy, and we also know that the industry is likely to be one of the early adopters of VR technology, which requires good computers to keep it running.
Since I started off with an occidental story about doing the right thing, I think concluding with an oriental story balances out the global nature of the OCM field. Once there was a king who was at war. As a frugal king, he bought the cheapest nails he could to shoe the horses of his warriors. One day a vital dispatch was being sent and for lack of a nail, a horse’s shoe was lost; for lack of a shoe the horse stumbled, for lack of a horse the rider was pitched, for lack of a rider the dispatch was lost; and for lack of a dispatch the war was lost. Sometimes, we fail to see that the things that we take for granted in our professional lives are of profound importance. Computers are the tools of our trade, are you caring for the tools of your trade properly?
By – Dr. Chris Smithmyer
Image Source: bodhih.com